Seven Essentials of the Path to Ordinary Holiness

1. Prayer
The ordinary faithful Catholic should pray at least several times a day. I recommend praying the Rosary, at least 5 decades, and at least some of the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. Recited prayer is essential to the path to holiness. If it were not, then our Lord would not have given us the Our Father, and our Lady would not have given us the Rosary. Spontaneous prayer in your own words is good, but it cannot replace recited prayer.

Prayer is the exercise of the virtues of love, faith, and hope by speaking with God. Give thanks to God for all that He has given you. Pray for family, friends, co-workers, fellow students, neighbors, and all persons in need, near and far. Pray mostly for the needs of others, then when you pray for your own needs, your prayers will be more effective. Ten minutes of prayer for the needs of others, plus one minute of prayer for yourself is more effective in obtaining what you need than if you spent the entire time praying for yourself.

2. Self-denial
Fasting is the preeminent way to practice self-denial. Most persons eat multiple times per day, nearly every day. And yet eating is directed mainly at one’s own benefit. It is not inherently an expression of love of God or neighbor. So it is very easy for eating and drinking to become an expression of selfishness. Self-denial frees one to love God and neighbor. In so far as you are inordinately concerned about yourself, you are not concerned about others.

The faithful disciple of Christ must practice self-denial in all things: where you go, how you spend your time, your thoughts, food, drink, entertainments, word, and deed.

3. Works of Mercy
Deeds of charity toward others is essential to the path of salvation. Now it is true that no one is saved by works alone. But the eternal moral law requires you to love your neighbor as yourself. For whoever does not love his neighbor, does not love God. And often the true love of neighbor requires helping a neighbor by some work of mercy. The spiritual and corporeal works of mercy are a good starting point for this task of salvation. But you must also consider the real needs of your neighbor in the present time and circumstances.

4. Avoid Sin
Except by a special act of the grace of God, the fallen sinner cannot avoid all venial sin in this life. However, we are each responsible for every sin we commit. Sin is the knowing deliberate choice of an immoral act. Grave sin must be avoided at all costs.

5. Go To Confession
Every Catholic should examine his or her conscience frequently, and receive the Sacrament of Confession at least once a month. If you have not been to Confession in 2 or 3 months, you should not be receiving Communion. If you have unconfessed mortal sins on your conscience, you should not be receiving Communion.

6. Go To Mass
Every Catholic should attend Mass on weekends and holy days. If you have a just reason, such as illness, you can miss Mass without sin. But otherwise, you must keep holy the Sabbath. Holy days are a type of Sabbath.

7. Learn Church Teaching
The members of the Catholic Church — and most teachers of Catholicism as well — are poorly catechized. They are ignorant of many teachings, and they have badly misunderstood the teachings they think they know. Strive to find reliable sources of Catholic teaching based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. The moral teachings of the Church are most important for salvation, and after that the dogmatic teachings and salvation theology.

Do not treat every question in theology as if it were a matter of open speculation. And if you have difficulty accepting a teaching, humbly exercise the virtue of faith, to believe what you do not entirely understand. For if you only believe those things that seem right to your own intellect, you do not have even little faith the size of a mustard seed.

Of all my works in theology, perhaps the most important is The Catechism of Catholic Ethics. The book contains the basic teachings of the Church on morality as well as sound Catholic moral theology. How will you avoid grave sin, if you do not know the basic principles of ethics? But most Catholics are ignorant or badly misinformed about these things.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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1 Response to Seven Essentials of the Path to Ordinary Holiness

  1. Matt says:

    Excellent summary of what Catholics need to do to be Holy. Thank you.

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